Fall in Cappadocia is a time for harvesting. All along the village streets, women sit in front of their homes to remove seeds from piles of fresh pumpkins or pick white beans from their stocks. Crates of grapes are carried home in the back of every tractor and the air is filled with a smell of burning wood as the grapes are boiled down into pekmez..
Pekmez is a kind of molasses made from grape juice, and since Cappadocia grows some of the best grapes in Turkey, you can find this thick syrup prepared in nearly every household in the area.
The process is fairly simple, but long and a bit exhausting. I was invited into several homes to help with making pekmez during my stay at BCH this September. The grapes are first gathered into large tarp bags and then stomped continuously until juice runs out from the bags and through a tube and into a plastic basin. My job was to carry the basin full of juice to a large copper pot where it would eventually be boiled. We occasionally dipped a cup into the juice as it was pouring out to enjoy a fresh glass while we worked. When the copper basin was at last filled, it was placed on a fire and cooked until it was frothy and boiling.
The pekmez is cooked for hours and nothing else is added to it besides a few large ladles of a special volcanic dirt…I was told that this addition is what makes the pekmez so sweet, and without it the taste would be sour.
Families work late into the night, and wake early in the morning to continue until all the grapes are stomped and boiled..resulting in an abundance of sweet golden colored liquid to be sold and consumed with nearly every meal for the coming winter months. the entire process takes days, but I found it to be such an enjoyable event with lots of time to visit with family, friends and new guests.
A page from my sketchbook, “Making Pekmez” September, 2014
I managed to make a pekmez drawing in the midst of the one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever been apart of…sitting under a tarp in the rain, while pots of pekmez boiled in front of us, sketching continuously even though the smoke from the fire burned our eyes, eating fresh potatoes cooked directly on the coals, and dipping bread into a bowl of pekmez cooked just hours before..an indescribable moment that can only be attempted to capture through drawing.